Mini guide to dining in Somerset
Somerset's historic the Hood Arms restaurant dates back to the 17th Century.
This corner of England’s West Country is known for quiet villages and orchards – but it is also home to exciting gastronomic traditions and contemporary spins on old-fashioned food.
Best for pub grub
Located in the village of Kilve, The Hood Arms dates back to the 17th century. With an emphasis on real ales, fine wines and locally sourced food, this former coaching inn has a seasonal menu of modern British classics that may include Jerusalem artichoke, apple and onion soup, roast rib of local beef, and plaice with lemon caper butter (nr Bridgwater; lunch mains from £5).
The latest offering from sibling restaurateurs Jon and Nick Rossi, the Mendip Inn takes the great British pub into the 21st century without losing any of the welcoming features you’d hope to find in a good old pub: big leather seats, roaring fires, plenty of nooks and crannies, and of course, amazing food. The menu is hearty and wholesome, featuring steak and ale pie, faggots and mash, and sharing plates (nr Bath; lunch mains from £4.95).
It may sound like a location from Star Wars, but the Wookey Hole Inn is in fact a glorious gastropub situated in the village of Wookey Hole. Here, the inn’s half-timbered heritage is brought up to date with top-notch local ciders and ales and creative British cuisine – dishes such as pesto-rib of beef and coconut sea bass are recent menu highlights. If the weather’s nice, take a table in its sculptured garden (High St; lunch mains from £5.75).
Best for vegeterians
A much-loved Glastonbury haunt, the delightful, family-run Rainbows End Café serves generous portions of Greek cheese parcels, fresh chilli pasties, satisfying soups and homemade cakes. Potted plants and brightly painted mismatched furniture help create a laid-back feel in the dining room and there is also a patio out the back (17b High St; mains from £3).
In the market town of Frome, The Garden Café is known for its organic, Fairtrade, free-range and locally sourced vegetarian and vegan food, as well as its efforts to reduce waste. Chow down on spicy cashew and bean patties, stone-baked pizzas – including a tasty tofu option – and salads in its walled garden, before taking home ingredients (breads, oils, sauces, fruit and vegetables) from its well-stocked shop (16 Stony St; mains from £6.40).
The food at Demuths is a world away from the stodgy quiches and nut roasts found in many veggie establishments. This brilliant bistro turns out some of Bath’s most imaginative food, from smoky ricotta fritters to a divine fennel tagine. Also look out for Demuths’ monthly seven-course tasting menu complete with wine pairings (2 North Parade Passage; mains from £4.95, seven-course tasting menus £55 including wine).
Best for modern dining
Located downstairs in the Castle Hotel, Taunton, Brazz has a lively atmosphere and bright décor. It serves British food with an emphasis on local produce. Expect to tuck into dishes like Beech Hayes Farm sausages with red onion gravy and mash, and ham hock and mustard pie served with buttered vegetables (Castle Green; mains from £6).
The village of Chew Magna is the somewhat incongruous setting for The Pony & Trap, a Michelin-starred country pub. Headed up by chef Josh Eggleton, it’s arguably one of the most exciting places to eat in the South West. Starters feature devilled pigeons’ livers and hearts with mushrooms on toast, and mains include fillet of Cornish cod with sautéed samphire and shrimp butter (Newtown; mains from £11.50).
Not only does the Clavelshay Barn restaurant – a converted stone barn in North Petherton, on the edge of the Quantocks – offer the cream of local Somerset ingredients, it also has its own farm (providing produce to the restaurant). Baked Somerset goat’s cheese with beetroot pureé and twice-cooked belly pork with scrumpy sauce are recent highlights (North Petherton; mains from £16).
Where to stay
Apple is a traditional redbrick Victorian townhouse in Glastonbury, which has recently had a contemporary refit. Abstract artwork features in the rooms and there’s a small apple orchard where you can take breakfast on sunny mornings (25 Norbins Rd, from £55).